THE BEST LAID PLANS....OR HOW I BECAME AN APRIL FOOL
Here in Italy we use our credit union debit card to withdraw the cash we need for everyday life in Italy, and to pay or mortgage. As you might imagine, the experience has become more and more painful over the last few years, so now when Art thinks the rate is good he just says "Let's go get some money out". I don't even like to look at the exchange rate, much less think about it, but for most of our other financial dealings, I'm in charge. I take care of the online banking and paying the credit cards and deciding what new offers we should accept or reject.
A while back on the SLOW TRAV MESSAGE BOARD there was a discussion about the Capital One Money Market Account . In addition to paying a good rate of interest, this account also offered an ATM card that could be used in Europe to withdraw cash without any additional fees. If you travel much, or if you frequent the SlowTrav message boards, you know that this is really a hot topic. Banks have begun charging more and higher fees to dispense our own money, and travelers looking to save money wherever possible are always searching. As expats living full-time in Italy, saving money wherever possible is right at the top of our "Important" list!
Although our credit union doesn't charge us additional fees to withdraw money, I thought this account sounded like a good back-up plan, so I opened an account. The paperwork, checks and debit cards were waiting for us when we arrived in Louisville last December....good deal.
Today we went to the bancomat to withdraw some money and no sooner had I entered my PIN number when the screen told me my card was invalid, had been retained, and that I should contact my bank. Luckily we were at the bancomat at the Post Office, which was still open, so I went in to tell them about my problem. The manager came to open the machine, checked my ID, and handed me the card. When I asked if I should try again, wondering if there might be a problem with the machine itself, she told me "no, your card's expired". Sure enough, a quick look told me that my card was good through March of 2008, and with today being the first of April, this was really no April Fool's joke!
I looked in my wallet for the new Capital One debit card, but I was pretty sure it was at home, and I was fairly confident I knew right where it was. I remember copying some of the more important documents to bring back to Italy with me, and I was sure all of this information was in an envelope in my desk. Once home I contacted my sister concerning the expired credit union card, wondering why a new one hadn't arrived, but still not overly concerned. I then went to my desk and opened the drawer holding the envelope of information I was looking for. But it wasn't exactly what I expected! There were NO debit cards, and no PIN numbers. Of course without the cards I certainly didn't need a PIN, but I was so sure that everything was in this one specific envelope! What had happened?
After searching through everything I could think of and still not finding the debit card, I had to accept the fact that no, they weren't here. Now you have to remember that when we were in the states I was sick for the entire visit...coughing, sneezing and sleeping a lot. I can only guess that in my weakened, cough-syruped state the cards and related information just never made it into my purse. Having a back-up plan is great, but not being able to access it is the same as having no plan at all. So now here we are, with no way to access cash, some questions about where the various debit cards are (scary enough!) and some VERY serious questions about my organizational skills. Usually I have not just one back-up plan, but two, maybe more, depending on the situation, but in this case I somehow dropped the ball big time. Had I been at my best I would have not only brought the new debit cards and related information, but I would have also noticed that my credit union debit card was about to expire and made some arrangements in advance. As it is I was not just surprised, but also upset and inconvenienced. Oh, and of course I feel pretty stupid to boot. I never expected to feel like such a fool, even on April first!